Fantasy owners need their early draft picks to come through, but the key to winning a championship is having players who enjoy unexpectedly strong seasons. There are a number of reasons players get overlooked, but if we take advantage of that it will lead to a strong season.

We will look at undervalued pitchers later, but here are the undervalued hitters for the upcoming season.

Detroit Tigers Outfielder Akil Baddoo

Baddoo made a name for himself immediately in 2021 when he hit a home run in each of the first two games and finished the month of April with four. Overall, it was a successful rookie season for Baddoo, who finished with a .259 batting average, 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 124 games.

The 23-year-old is expected to bat leadoff in a sneaky strong Tigers lineup, which should allow him to score plenty of runs. The speed is legit, and if Baddoo can get close to 140 games, he should easily surpass 20 stolen bases. There’s 20 home run potential, but we may be a year from that. At worst, Baddoo should be a player who hits 15 home runs, steals 15 bases and scores 80 runs.

The biggest concern surrounding Baddoo is his struggles against left-handed pitching. The outfielder hit .214 with no home runs against lefties last year, so if that doesn’t turn around he could find himself on the bench or hitting lower in the lineup when there’s a southpaw on the mound. Baddoo’s current average draft position of 180 helps limit any risk that he could have, and there’s certainly a ton of upside.

New York Yankees Infielder Gleyber Torres

The power numbers have disappeared the last two seasons for Torres, as he has hit 12 home runs in 169 games. To put that in perspective, Torres hit 38 home runs in 144 games in 2019. Torres was one of the better prospects in baseball, made an immediate impact in his first two seasons and suddenly forgot how to hit for power. However, there’s a strong likelihood of a rebound for the 25-year-old.

Torres has mentioned this spring that he has tweaked his swing in an effort to get closer to where he was in 2018 and 2019 when he was able to hit for more power. The combination of working with a new hitting coach (Dillon Lawson) and moving back to second base full time should bode well for Torres in 2022. Moving back to second should help him focus more on his offense and not the stress of playing shortstop along with hitting lower in the lineup.

Most projection systems have Torres rebounding in a big way (20-plus home runs and double-digit steals), but he has a current average draft position of 171 and is the 20th second baseman being drafted. I’m willing to bet on the upside that we saw early in his career.

Baltimore Orioles First Baseman Trey Mancini

It was an inconsistent 2021 season for Mancini, which should have been expected after he missed the entire 2020 campaign due to colon cancer. However, he still had a strong year, as he finished with a .255 batting average, 21 home runs, 77 runs and 71 RBIs. It must be nice for that to be considered a slight disappointment. The 30-year-old had a normal offseason and made a few tweaks to his batting stance in hopes to return to the player who hit 35 home runs in 2019.

Much has been made about Camden Yards moving the left field fence back and the impact it will have on home runs. There’s a great breakdown from on what should be expected and for Mancini, and it’s status quo. When he does hit the ball to left field, he crushes it. He is also adept at hitting home runs to right field. That means there shouldn’t be much of an impact on him.

Mancini has been playing the outfield throughout spring training and if that does carry into the season, it will just add to position flexibility if he is able to accrue enough playing time. There’s some risk, though. Mancini will most likely be traded at some point this season, and leaving the hitter-friendly AL East could ding his fantasy value. However, he’s the 26th first baseman being drafted and there’s a strong chance he gets back over 25 home runs. There’s no reason not to draft Mancini in Round 15.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Phil Backert

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